Review: FOX 8 by George Saunders

Erich Mayer

Saunders uses Fox 8’s voice to tell a fascinating bedtime story while pleading for the preservation of endangered species.
Review: FOX 8 by George Saunders

Fox 8 illustrated by Chelsea Cardinal and written by George Saunders.

Chelsea Cardinal, whose delightfully simple illustrations adorn this short story, writes, ‘In her next life, if it is up to her, she would like to be a fox.’ No doubt that is because the creature named Fox 8 is such a wonderful individual.

George Saunders has chosen to create in Fox 8 an enterprising and endearing fox who has taught himself the human language (in this case, English) by listening to a woman read bedtime stories to her children. Because of this, Fox 8’s pronunciation and spelling leave something to be desired, making reading this book challenging. The book takes the form of a letter from Fox 8 to the reader using his idiosyncratic interpretation of how ‘yumans’ speak:

What that lady in that house was saying, was: Storys, to her pups, with ‘luv.’ When done, she wud dowse the lite, causing dark. Then, due to feeling ‘luv’, wud bend down, putting snout and lips to the hed of her pups, which was called: ‘gudnite kiss.’

Fox 8 is surprised that humans think foxes are sly and trick chickens. He avers that foxes are very open and honest with chickens, that chickens have a fair deal, that they lay their eggs and foxes eat them, and sometimes foxes also eat a live chicken, if the chicken consents to be eaten by not running away. Fox 8 also discusses the lack of human understanding when it comes to bears and owls. All of which makes entertaining reading but has the purpose of showing that Fox 8 shares in the fallibilities of his race, as do we humans.

When the ‘Grate Leeder’ of the earth of foxes asks Fox 8 to read a human sign that appears on their land, the foxes discover that developers are coming. Soon the foxes’ natural habitat is destroyed: ‘As far as we cud see, it is just flat, no trees. Upon troting to our River, we found it rekked due to so much suden dirt floating in.’

And so Fox 8 and his friend, Fox 7, try to find a new source of food. Their attempts to do this and the eventual outcome comprise the second half of this short book of about 50 (un-numbered) pages.

Saunders uses Fox 8’s voice to tell a fascinating bedtime story for young children while conveying with tact and humour a plea for the preservation of endangered species. The tone of the book suggests that Saunders believes humans are still capable of producing a happy ending to our environmental problems and that writers can influence this, even though Fox 8 is not so sure.

Rating: 4 ½ stars ★★★★☆
Fox 8 A Story
By GEORGE SAUNDERS
Illustrated by CHELSEA CARDINAL

Published: 15/11/2018
Extent: 64
ISBN: 9781526606495
Imprint: Bloomsbury Publishing
RRP: $15.38
What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Erich Mayer is a retired company director and former organic walnut farmer. He now edits the blog humblecomment.info